Слике страница
PDF
ePub

practical experience in the war games along the coast; for while the army and navy have enjoyed such an experience in common, no instance is on record where the coast guard has ever been able to profit from participation therein. The foregoing suggestions, if put into effect, would vastly increase the versatility of the officers of the coast guard, but prior to doing so, the commissioned personnel should be expanded commensurate not only with the size of the service, but the age and experience of the officers. At present, with an enlisted personnel of above 4000 men, there are but six senior captains (commanders); and the remaining commanding officers, those who do the real work at sea, enjoy the rank of captain (lieutenant commander), while adequate promotion in the junior grades is lacking.

It is proper to digress here to point to the fact that the present rank held by those afloat not only in the commissioned, but in the warrant ranks, not to mention the petty officer class, is entirely inadequate and must tend to prevent that full efficiency that is to be expected of the coast guard in the event of its becoming for the time being a part of the navy.

The handwriting is on the wall, and in the event of the service fulfilling the terms of the statute providing for its becoming a part of the navy, the lack of adequate rank will be a disturbing factor which will, by necessity, engage the attention of the Navy Department and legislation will have to be had. The writer is not gifted with clairvoyant powers and is as much at loss as to the ultimate destination of officers in the coast guard, in the event of mobilization and the duty each will perform, as are his fellows; but unless he is a false prophet, legislation must be had in order that they may do the work, and any legislation that may by necessity be enacted in war-time will be inadequate by reason of influences difficult to control. Therefore, measures should be at once taken to adjust the rank of officers by timely Congressional action, while at the same time adjusting the rank of warrant officers to meet impending conditions and to expand the petty officer class to make it a real incentive among the men.

During the months of July and August of each year, or if for only during one of those months, the crews of the coast guard cutters should be placed on board of naval ships in reserve, or ordinary, and, under coast guard officers, taken to sea and given

gunnery practice with heavy ordnance. On the initial cruise only, a naval gunnery officer should be detailed as an aid to the commanding officer, because of the naval officer's present knowledge of the naval ships and equipment. After that one cruise, the services of the naval man would not be required, as the coast guard officers would have absorbed the essentials necessary and the ships could be safely trusted in their care for all the purposes of training

The practice suggested is essential for both officers and men and its necessity should be recognized. Would it not be desirable to have certain vessels of the navy set aside for manning by the coast guard in case of war? We of the coast guard know that results could be delivered, and the expediency of such a scheme should receive consideration.

Reflect for a moment on what is being done by the navy to advance the efficiency of the naval militia, and also the efforts that are being made to induce others from civil life to embark on cruises for training purposes and the degree of instruction given them. One wonders as to what the mental process must be of those who neglect the coast guard and compel it to work out its own salvation with practically no aid of any kind and with an appropriation that is almost pathetic, by reason of inadequacy, to meet even the ordinary running expenses of the service.

“ It is the shots that hit that count,” we are all taught that ; consequently, the batteries of all cruising coast guard ships should be immediately increased to include 4-inch or 3-inch guns, according to the size of the vessel. Real enthusiasm will then be had on the range and the resulting scores will stimulate the crews; they will feel that they are in possession of guns which they may one day have to use for more serious purpose than mere range work.

Not long ago an officer of the navy advised against the expense of re-arming the coast guard cutters and suggested that “they could have recourse to rifle fire for offensive and defensive purposes.” The writer again begs to say that he is no prophet, but advances the suggestion that should coast guard vessels be ever called on for defensive or offensive purposes, there will be a most urgent necessity for other than rifle fire in any actions in which they may engage.

A COAST GUARD RESERVE For some time past, numerous officers of the coast guard have appreciated the advisability of a coast guard reserve.

Lieutenant C. C. Gill, U. S. Navy, has, in his able article in the September October, 1916, issue of the PROCEEDINGS, dwelt on the necessity of such a reserve, and it is the first instance, to the writer's knowledge, where such a proposition has appeared in print or been considered outside of the coast guard. The army and navy reserves are not tangible assets of those services. Should we not immediately proceed to create for the coast guard a reserve that will be necessary in the event of war? In suggesting the cutter and station crews on a yearly training cruise, the matter of a reserve was in the writer's mind; the idea being that while the active crews were on that cruise, the cutters and stations would be manned by the reserves who should be given, during that period, a thorough course of drill.

The statutes provide that the period of enlistment in the coast guard shall not exceed a term of three years for each enlistment; while by regulations the present period of enlistment is but one year. In view of that fact, it should be required of all enlisted men that they go into the reserve at the expiration of their respective enlistments and there remain for a period of three years (a certain sum as retainer pay being allotted to them), but to be ready for a call to active duty upon occasion.

For the purposes of a reserve it should be divided into three classes: Class A, all those who have previously served in the coast guard afloat; Class B, all those having had previous service in coast guard stations only; Class C, those from civil life seeking enlistment and to be recruited wholly from among the fishermen along the coasts.

In war-time, temporary commissions in the regular coast guard should be given to the requisite number of warrant officers, professionally qualified; while provisional appointment as reserve officers should be extended to such of the enlisted personnel then in the service who demonstrate their qualifications, or who, being qualified, have already entered the reserve.

The service is essentially a seafaring one; consequently, all reserves should be seasoned men, able to stand the wear and tear of actual, hard duty at sea and with a full knowledge of service rigors.

THE MATÉRIEL Some 20 years ago, because of the fact that no great demands were made upon their efforts, the vessels of the service were small, a policy even prevailing at that time " to increase the efficiency of the service by decreasing its tonnage." In 1897, however, a decided advancement was made in the construction policy and larger ships were built and their speed brought up to 17 knots when developing 2400 I. H. P.-the Gresham and Algonquin types. Yet the ships were coal burners, their bunker capacity limited in proportion to the fuel consumption, and there was a consequent restricted cruising radius. That policy was continued until 1902, when the last comparatively fast vessel, the Mohawk, was launched; and from then on, owing to the greatly increased cost of construction and the practical impossibility of obtaining adequate appropriations for ships, as well as for economical reasons, the speed and even the size of the vessels have decreased. True, under the last naval appropriation bill two larger vessels were obtained, but the fatal error was made in naming $350,000 for each, while $800,000 would probably have been appropriated at that time had it have been asked for, especially when it is understood that such a sum represents the cost of the new gun boats carried on that bill. Certainly, $500,000 is the least sum that should be allotted for a coast guard vessel of the cruising type in order to properly build and equip her; and $800,000 would be the maximum for an efficient vessel, because speed is such an important factor in the cruising cutter of to-day. It is a wellknown fact that by reason of construction and lack of speed, the average coast guard ship lacks the military value it should have. In this progressive age, when even rural fire apparatus is being motorized in order to develop mobility, we regard with apprehension the slow coast guard cutter, a vessel both by term and occupation presumed to be gifted with the ability to "get there." In case of war if those ships are in the zone of activities, some at least will suffer by reason of their slowness.

If sufficiently large appropriations cannot be obtained for the construction of proper vessels under coast guard appropriations, the necessity for larger and faster ships--ones having real military value as well as the ability to perform their peace dutiesdemands that some other means be resorted to for securing the necessary funds than has been customary in the past, in order that

efficiency be not jeopardized. There appears to be two methods for accomplishing this: (a) The designs and specifications for coast guard vessels to originate in the Bureaus of Construction and Repair and Steam Engineering of the Navy Department, and appropriated for on the naval appropriation bills. (b) The building of a certain number of gun vessels for the naval service, and then turning a proportionate number of them over to the coast guard, fully equipped and batteried, to be used for the peace duties of that service, but ready for war duty when called on. The writer disclaims all originality for the latter suggestion, as it is understood to have been under the consideration of the naval general board. In it seems to lie the removal of a serious handicap, under which the coast guard has labored, and will continue to, for reasons here stated. It is accordingly commended to the consideration of every officer who may read this paper.

There occurs to the writer the desirability of building for the coast guard, in addition to the smaller type of vessel, about five really large ships-oil burners with ample steaming radius and with high speed. Such vessels could not only perform the function of scout cruisers, when serving as part of the navy, but would be specially adapted for the long, off-shore cruises made by cutters in search of derelicts, and on the ice patrol, etc., and they would be invaluable in case of assistance being needed by a vessel far out at sea. Such a cutter would have the ability to go and to keep the sea under all conditions.

The writer fully realizes that it will take money and, in some instances, special legislation to put into effect certain of the suggestions herein presented, while in others no legislation will be required. It would seem desirable that legislation be sought to give the committees on naval affairs of the respective houses jurisdiction over coast guard affairs. Where legislation is needed, immediate efforts should be made for securing the same, and there seems to be no more propitious time than the present, when the country is awakening to the necessities for national defence, to endeavor to place the coast guard, with respect to its military needs, in the same category with the army and navy, because in time of hostilities it must become a part of the latter service. The increase in the appropriation for the two last ships authorized has been denied, the bill appropriating the funds for aviation in the coast guard has been “ laid on the table.” Something is

« ПретходнаНастави »